I need help to compare and contrast the stories "The Rocking-Horse Winner" and "The Lottery."

Expert Answers
jlcannad eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both stories certainly show the dangers of conformity. In "The Rocking-Horse Winner," the mother feels that "she felt she must cover up some fault," and even though there's never any particular person forcing her to try and prove her worth by having more, she feels that nebulous need. She wants the "discreet servants" and to be seen as part of the upper class, and her son, understanding his mother's needs, chooses to sacrifice his life. This same conformity is evident in "The Lottery" where members of this town press each other to go along with the lottery. The old man Wagner calls the towns who have given up the lottery fools and suggests that the rain may stop coming for them. Clearly, both stories have a lot of societal pressure to conform.

However, where the first story is really about love, "The Lottery" is about a lack of love or even compassion. Paul loves his mother so much that when she is desperate, he risks himself to try and give her what she needs. But in "The Lottery" the other people in town are not willing to even give up the cruel joy of stoning a woman to death. The lack of compassion for another human being is incredible, and when someone presses a stone into little Davy's hand, it's clear that this lack of compassion is being taught to the next generation. This is clearly and sharply contrasted against Paul who would sacrifice even his own life just to make his mother happier.

sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both stories are similar in the fact that they both have tragic and shocking endings. When readers begin both stories, there is nothing to convey that major characters are going to die. In fact, both stories begin with a fairly positive and happy vibe. "The Lottery" has townspeople gathering together. Men and women are talking to each other, and kids are running around in a playful manner.

The children assembled first, of course. School was recently over for the summer, and the feeling of liberty sat uneasily on most of them; they tended to gather together quietly for a while before they broke into boisterous play. and their talk was still of the classroom and the teacher, of books and reprimands.

"The Rocking-Horse Winner" begins by discussing a beautiful woman that married for love. We even get a very quaint description of the house and kids in the beginning of the story.

There were a boy and two little girls. They lived in a pleasant house, with a garden, and they had discreet servants, and felt themselves superior to anyone in the neighbourhood.

The stories are quite different in their sense of scale. "The Rocking-Horse Winner" stays focused on an individual family; however, "The Lottery" is focused on an entire small town. Readers get little personalized snippets of various people, but the core of the story is based on traditions of an entire town.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both stories are about putting something else ahead of genuine human love and compassion, and the destructive consequences of doing that.

In "The Rocking Horse Winner," we learn that the mother is not capable of loving her husband and children. She tries to fill her inner emptiness with things. She never feels she has enough money, despite the fact that the household seems comfortable and well off. Her inner emptiness impacts her son Paul, who kills himself riding his rocking horse in the futile attempt to satisfy her needs and earn her love.

In "The Lottery," the village puts superstition and tradition ahead of love and compassion. The villagers persist in adhering to a barbaric annual stoning ritual that they believe will guarantee a good harvest. Although the tradition requires killing a neighbor, and although the compassionate course would be to end a ritual that modern science knows is pointless, the village won't change its ways.

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The Rocking-Horse Winner

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